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London's West End: How to enjoy a glorious staycation in the city

No trip to the capital is complete without a trip to London's West End, and there's so much more to do than go to the theatre

Best things to do in London's West End
Georgia Brown
Senior Lifestyle & Fashion Writer
September 3, 2023
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Having lived in London for the last eight years, I'm always amazed to discover new dining spots, explore hidden shopping districts and uncover green spaces I haven't yet meandered through. 

I was even more surprised to find that while enjoying a staycation in London's West End, arguably the city's most recognisable district, there were so many places I never knew existed. From Mayfair's oldest arcade to Oxford Street's virtual axe-throwing arena, spending a city break in the place I've called home since my teenage years was a refreshing reminder that holidaying on your doorstep can be a surprisingly rewarding experience. 

London is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year, rain or shine, but if your calendar boasts a weekend spare before the clocks turn back for autumn, here are the best things to do in London's West End to soak up the very last of the summer. 

Keep scrolling to discover more…

Where to dine in London's West End

London's unmatched eating scene is a total heaven for foodies. Whether you're after fine dining, food hall delights, celebrity chef-owned restaurants or world cuisine, there's very little the West End doesn't serve up. 

Bagatelle floral plate of food served on a shell plate© Instagram
Bagatelle in Mayfair

Tucked away on the alluring Dover Street is Bagatelle, a most elegant establishment serving up delicious Fresh-Mediterranean cuisine and an invite to Mayfair's most unexpected party. Mr White's steakhouse specialises in succulent steaks, authentic Italian pizza and Marco Pierre White's very own London Dry Gin.

Mr White's steakhouse in Leicster Square© Instagram
Mr White's by Marco Pierre White in Leicster Square

The Parisian-style brasserie Balthazar transports diners to grand dining rooms of bohemian fin-de-siècle Paris, Bubala in Soho is the perfect jaunt to find vibrant vegetarian food, while SUSHISAMBA Covent Garden offers up a showstopping pre-theatre menu and an idyllic dining spot overlooking the world famous Piazza. 

Editor's favourite: Brasserie of Light

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Located inside Selfridges on Oxford Street, this elegant eatery boasts stunning Art Deco interiors, an eclectic menu and a lavish cocktail list worthy of more than just an Instagram Story. Yes, the twinkling 1940s-style interiors and showstopping Pegasus - a 24ft, crystal-encrusted Damien Hirst sculpture - draw in the social media set, but this glamorous brasserie has also perfected its immaculate service and indulgent menu that combines seasonal British produce with imaginative Asian influences.

The bathrooms, designed by architect Martin Brudnizki, are what dreams are made of.  Brudnizki said in an interview: "Just because you’re going to the bathroom doesn’t mean it needn’t be a chic experience!" We couldn't agree more.

Things to do in London's West End

Where there is London's West End, there is theatre. World-class theatre at that. Yet this famous district doesn't only lend itself to the capital's glittering ensemble of performing arts. The Royal Academy of Arts boast an inspiring collection of free displays and mind blowing exhibitions sure to unlock your inner creative. The Cinema at Selfridges makes movie night luxury, with plush reclining velvet seats, a gourmet cocktail list, classic hotdogs and all the best Blockbusters. 

The Royal Academy of Arts' annual Summer Exhibition is an eclectic cocktail of joyful portraits and imaginative work© David Parry / Royal Academy of Arts
The Royal Academy of Arts' annual Summer Exhibition is an eclectic cocktail of joyful portraits and imaginative work

If it's shopping you're after, visit London's largest LUSH store, get an expert skincare consulation at Aesop, find vintage treasures at Beyond Retro and hit up the West End's department stores.

Don't pass on the chance to stroll through the Burlington Arcade, a hidden stretch of luxury retailers located in Picadilly that feels like you're stepping back in time. England's oldest and longest shopping arcade, which opened in 1819, is still guarded by impeccably dressed Beadles and comes with a fascinating set of historic rules (such as the ban on whistling) you'd never believe were real laws. 

Burlington Arcade is the home of Roja Parfums' flagship boutique
Burlington Arcade is the home of Roja Parfums' flagship boutique

For those with even a glimmer of a competitive streak, Boom Battle Bar on Oxford Street is a must-visit. With an AR axe-throwing arena, Augmented Reality Darts, Crazier Golf, Shuffleboard, Beer Pong, and Karaoke booths, this underground haunt has an electric atmosphere perfect for a date, family day out, group celebration or rainy weekend plan.

Editor's favourite: Afternoon tea at the Ritz

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz© The Ritz
Afternoon Tea at The Ritz

In my opinion, there are few experiences in London more special than an Afternoon Tea at the Ritz. This elegant tea time tradition has stood the test of time since the famous hotel opened its glittering doors in 1906, capturing all that is elegant about the quintessentially British pastime. Indulge in finely cut sandwiches with classic fillings together with freshly baked plain scones with Cornish clotted cream and strawberry preserve, followed by a delectable selection of afternoon tea cakes and pastries.

I have dined in the Palm Court twice; once for my 21st birthday and again for a friend's 30th. Despite being years apart, both experiences were as magical as the last. Immaculate service, a picture-perfect space, mouthwatering treats and a heady glamour only found in London's oldest hotels, this Afternoon Tea is hard to beat. 

Where to stay in London's West End

I had a wonderful experience staying at Sofitel St James, a five-star landmark hotel located in the bustling heart of London's West End. The elegant, opulent interiors of this Grade-II listed building embody London's timeless glamour, with soaring cielings, monochrome marble floors and regal arched windows greeting you as you step into the lobby. 

Sofitel London St James is a five-star hotel in the heart of London's West End© Sofitel London St James
Sofitel London St James is a five-star hotel in the heart of London's West End

Located just moments from Pall Mall in St James, this hotel provides the perfect pitstop for a weekend in the West End, allowing guests to walk to most of London's most famous attractions in minutes.

Our room was pristine, made better by the blissful sleep I had in the hotel's signature Sofitel MyBed, allowing me to recharge for another day of exploring the capital. 

Bedrooms at the Sofitel London St James boast French design qualities© Jack Hardy
Bedrooms at the Sofitel London St James boast French design qualities

Breakfast was served in the light-filled Wild Honey St James restaurant, and it was befitting of the hotel's five-star status. All the staff at the Softel St James were faultless; present when needed and discrete when not. The buffet was fresh and consistently replenished, while the a la carte served up more indulgent options like smoked salmon with poached eggs and Full English breakfasts. 

Breakdast in served in the Wild Honey restaurant© Sofitel St James
Breakdast in served in the Wild Honey restaurant

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